What to Look For Against the Panthers
Surprisingly, the Jets came out last week and played their starters for basically an entire half of football against the New York Giants, a rare occurrence for the first preseason game of the year. Whether the decision was made for football reasons or because it was the first game in a new stadium in what could be considered a rivalry game, the fact is that decision probably means much less time for the starters against the Carolina Panthers. In many ways that works out well for the team as Rex Ryan was disgusted by the performance of his reserves and now he has an added reason to play them longer this week. So here are some of the things to look forward to this Saturday night.
How does RB LaDainian Tomlinson look in his second week?
There were a few things that we saw last week in the surprisingly long appearance by Tomlinson in the game. We saw that he doesn't run much different than Thomas Jones when going into the line, he still has a little burst when he sees the end zone, and he is going to be an asset in the passing game. But really the most important thing to learn about LT comes in this game when we all get to see how well his body can bounce back game to game. The Jets should get a good idea of just how much they can use Tomlinson on a weekly basis by seeing what spring is in his step against the Panthers.
Can the Jets showcase QB Kellen Clemens?
Clemens played well last week and the Jets were clearly hoping to get some teams in need of a backup to pick up the phone and call them for a trade. Clemens does not look to be a factor in the Jets future and does not want to back up Mark Brunell making every opportunity important for him. If he can do it again in extended time maybe a team will bite.
What role does WR Laveranues Coles play?
Coles came to the Jets under the impression that he would be replacing Santonio Holmes for four weeks and then perhaps be released if the Jets did not have any future use for him. However, against the Giants, Coles did not get any reps with the starting unit as those plays went to Brad Smith instead. Was that simply to have the backup QB's have better quality receivers to work with (Santonio Holmes also did not play with the starters) or is this a sign that Coles' return may be quite shorter than originally anticipated?
Does RB Joe McKnight look like a football player?
It is only one week, but McKnight's no show in the preseason opener at the very least raised some eyebrows. McKnight has had a rocky start to his NFL career and looked awful against the Giants. Running back is one of those positions where there is a limited learning curve and guys usually just come in and play well. Even in the preseason scrap heap backs put up big yards against third string players, yet McKnight did nothing in week 1. Another week like this and Danny Woodhead may have a chance to make the team.
Do CB's Dwight Lowery, Drew Coleman and Marquice Cole prove last week was a fluke?
These three players got torched last week by the Giants backups and were on every highlight reel the following morning giving up catch after catch. Maybe they just had a bad game or maybe the Giants WR's really are hidden gems, but another week like that will not be acceptable. Carolina does not have great receivers, but there is a logjam of players vying for a starting spot and they will be giving 100% on the field this week. The Panthers want to rely less on the run this year and should be passing often this week to get some work in and will be giving some time to an unproven rookie QB in Jimmy Clausen. If this trio plays poorly again the Jets may be forced to start looking elsewhere for players.
Can the Jets defense generate a pass rush?
Despite it simply being a preseason game the Jets did use some blitzes against Eli Manning last week, but were unable to register a sack. The one negative of last years team was the inability to sack the QB, which the team hoped would be fixed in 2010 by a full season of Calvin Pace and the addition of Jason Taylor. Carolina got murdered last week by the Ravens, allowing multiple sacks and being flagged for penalties trying to stop them. Their head coach attributed it partly to unfamiliarity with the 34 defensive front, the same base the Jets will likely use. The Jets will be out for blood this week.
Does DE Vernon Gholston pick up strike two?
Another game, another invisible performance for Gholston. Gholston had one pressure late in the first half and a bullrush later in the game, but the stat sheet was once again empty. Some looking at the positives noted double teams and those two decent pushes, but the reality is those are the same positives people reached for last year. All the talk of the increased speed and great moves at the line from practice proved to be just talk in week 1. If he can't pick it up in week 2 he is one strike away from being a guy who might not even dress on gameday during the regular season.
Will any “unknown” put their name into the mix?
We have all heard the names. Donovan Warren. Jeff Cumberland. Cory Reamer. Matt Kroul. Ty Steinkuhler. Nobody stood out among the backups trying to make the team in week 1. With week 3 being more of a dress rehersal than depth evaluation and the fourth preseason game often meaning nothing, if somebody wants to make this team they have to pick up their game against the Panthers. If they do so they can earn some meaningful time the following week and maybe even make the game against the Eagles mean something for them. If they no-show against Carolina it is going to be very hard for them to make the team.
I'll be back following the game Saturday with some thoughts on what we might be able to pull from the game.
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